The Long And Winding Road
This organised tour of both islands concentrates mainly on the south. As a consequence today was mainly about eating up the road miles to get to our jumping off point for the south island, Wellington. This is New Zealand’s capital city.
To ease the toil of being sat in the bus all day we stopped at a few attractions on our journey south. The weather has dried up and temperatures are late teens and sunny. The route is the main State Highway 1, a single lane carriageway for most of its length and only developing into a dual carriageway when it got near the sprawl of Wellington.
Our first stop was a waterfall that was memorable.
Next we stopped for about an hour at Taupo. This town on the lake had a terrific and relaxed vibe with many outdoor cafes. I could well imagine spending a night or two here. One of its memorable attractions is the McDonalds restaurant that includes dining space inside the fuselage of a DC-3 (otherwise known as a Dakota or Skytrain.)
Back in the bus we had a brief stop at Foxton. Here they had created a tourist attraction by importing and erecting a windmill, as you do. An interesting decision!
I noted this sign on a window to a visitor/community centre. The gangs allude to some seriously violent groups who are involved with controlling and selling drugs. The ethnic mix swings across all the people of NZ and can involve firearms. Quite a surprise really and it seems, with my brief research, to have started with Hell’s Angels in the 1960s.
Our hotel in Wellington was in the heart of the ‘downtown’ on Cuba Street. This busy strip was full of bars and restaurants. Finding a Mexican restaurant was a really welcome change but this had to wait until we watched the climax and finish of the Australian Grand Prix. It made a change to watch the race at the end of the day Down Under rather than at dawn in Yorkshire.
The promised rain made an emphatic appearance the next day and I wandered off to see the National War Memorial, a wonderful monument that seemed completely fitting of the sacrifice of so many servicemen.
From here I found the Museum of New Zealand (Te Papa Tongarewa). I love museums and this was a truly an excellent celebration and explanation of the peoples, wildlife and geology of New Zealand. As regards the latter there was a small room that behaved as if an earthquake was happening ie. it shook and rocked for several intense seconds. I chose to experience this on my knees under a table in order to ‘live out’ the experience. There was much merriment amongst the other occupants of the room that an elderly nutter was sheltering under furniture!
I learned a lot but also gained a real appreciation of how young the country was even though the Māoris had been here several centuries more than the Europeans. The introduction of so many species of animal and plant now seemed fraught and I read that the innocent introduction of goats had proven calamitous and the attempted cull and control had worked out at NZ$250/goat! For an economy dependent on food production you can appreciate the controls that exist at the borders.
The Gallipoli campaign in WW1 was an attempt to invade Turkey along the Dardanelles after the country joined the conflict on the side of the Germans. The invasion in April 1915 was up steep cliffs held by existing (underestimated and disrespected) Turkish troops. The Allied forces were mainly Australians, British and New Zealanders. In Australia and New Zealand this failed campaign saw a horrific bloody agonising loss of life in a hopeless set of attacks against well held strongholds. The Allied forces had also to deal with heat, dehydration, disease, infestation and on occasion a shortage of supplies whilst contained by the enemy above in cramped spaces on the shoreline.
It was catastrophically ill-conceived, on distant shores, and personifies Alan Clark’s phrase for other WW1 battles as Lions being led by Donkeys. The lions being these young men slaughtered endlessly in attack after attack. The Turks fought bravely to defend their country and after months of stalemate, deprivation and loss the Allies withdrew exhausted and, frankly, beaten.
Nations can be built on this type of sacrifice, ironically. A spirit and resolve develops as heroes are made and legends written. Gallipoli is tragically the hill that New Zealand (and Australia) died on yet represents how magnificent they can be as nations. It was, however, never worth the price of nearly 9,000 Australians and 3,000 New Zealanders dead. The Turks lost 87,000 and the British, Irish and French also lost tens of thousands.
The exhibition worked its way through the campaign and told the story of the experience through soldiers, an officer and a nurse.
In the area of the graphics and models there were videos and accompanied by stirring yet melancholy music that fitted the funereal atmosphere. I was so touched I nearly shed a tear. Gallipoli is not a new story but relaying the spirit, initial false optimism, injury, death, squalor and family loss is a difficult task in a world where we’ve become probably hardened and indifferent to tragedy. Wellington is a long way to go but it would be worth the trip to see this exhibition. I won’t forget it. So powerful.
Later that night was another holiday highlight as Anna and I met up with Paul.
Paul and I knocked about and shared a student house in 1974 to 1976 in Altrincham whilst both at Manchester Polytechnic. We hadn’t met up since the late 80s in Amsterdam. Apparently our regular contact lapsed because I unfollowed him on Facebook? Something I can’t recollect but maybe guilty as charged.
Paul now lives mainly in Wellington and continues to work in IT, a very global and transferable profession. Candi Staton has a line in a song… ‘people change, but not much’. As I meet and still have contact with old friends I can confirm it is true. Sadly we all look different and life shapes our budgets, relationships and locations but the values, interests and affection never changes.
We had a couple of beers, a bottle of wine and an Italian whilst Anna and I interrogated Paul about the intervening period. Discoveries included his energetic love of cricket and an ability to play the ukulele. It was great to reminisce about days back in Manchester and the ability to park for free near the Poly. This included finding a parking meter and then feeding several handily available ring pulls off the pavement into the meter!
Music was always a common interest and spookily it seems Paul relatively recently went to see Nick Lowe in Pocklington. We were also there, oblivious to his presence! We’ve ensured that doesn’t happen again and plan to meet up when he’s next in the UK.
4 thoughts on “Australia & New Zealand 2023 – Days 20 and 21”
Hi Tony, back in Yorkshire now but still avidly following. You are following roughly the route we did with our daughter and son in law 10 years ago. I hope your itinerary includes Queenstown (the adventure capital of the world) – more ways to damage yourself than anywhere else. We were told it had one of the best orthopaedic hospitals and the adventure industry supplied most of the patients. So for you – is it jet boats, white water rafting, swimming the rapids, cycling down a mountain, buggying down a mountain, or just jumping off a bridge with an elastic band to catch you. I look forward to your descriptions.
Ha, ha! Yes, we’ve been offered those options at Queenstown, although some aren’t available (fortunately!) Which ones did you do?
Ha, ha! Yes, we’ve been offered all those options at Queenstown. Which one did you do?
My offspring swam the rapids – and had to be rescued. Maureen and I thought going up and down the mountain in a cable car was quite exciting enough – but I remember spending a very pleasant afternoon sitting on the grass watching lunatics jump off a very high bridge. I thought the bravest ones were the ones who changed their minds when they got onto the bridge and looked down.